A/N: First, my apologies for yet another long gap between chapters. I am grateful to each and every one of you for reading and reviewing and for being honest about how frustrating it is to wait so long. Your wonderful, thoughtful reviews and continuing support mean more to me than you can ever know. (By the way, bethi13212, the pronunciation of Isa's name rhymes with Lisa. Thanks for asking!)

I just got back from a trip to Chicago, where I made a pilgrimage to see the gorgeous Villa D'Citta (the guest house where Edward stays with his family and entourage when he's in Chicago) and Katerina's. The food and live music there were even better than I imagined when I researched it for Chapter 1. I had a silly grin on my face all evening, as I envisioned Edward at the piano and the Dust Covers nearby.

This chapter has been through umpteen drafts and finally reached postable status due in no small part to the patience and inspiration of my wonderful beta, TruceOver. (She first started editing an early draft last fall while waiting for the premiere of BD2 at Camp BD in L.A.!) Kate and faite-comme-moi also decreased my doubts and misgivings with their careful prereading, and faite-comme-moi offered wonderful suggestions for the details of the Dust Covers' experience in Nashville. And deenerneener gave me the supportive kick in the ass that I always seem to need to get through my pre-posting anxiety.

This work of fanfiction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It's usually rated M for M/M slash, but in this chapter it's M/M/M.


The Times (London): Cullen Signs on for China Collab. Recalling his first visit to China at age ten, pianist Edward Cullen announced today at the Tanglewood Music Festival in western Massachusetts that he will reunite with several prominent Chinese musicians for an Asian tour next year...

~ICL~

June 23 ~ Chicago

I stare up at the crack in the ceiling of my bedroom, trying to remember if there is any reason to get out of bed today. After deciding that the answer is no, I roll onto my side, wishing I could escape into sleep once again, but my head is pounding. I've already taken something for the hangover, so maybe this is caffeine withdrawal.

I'm just hoping I still have enough coffee and alcohol in the apartment so that I don't have to go outside at all today. The window shades aren't quite dark enough to hide the fact that it's another sunny day – a steamy one too, no doubt. It's already hot in here, and the air conditioner is struggling to keep up.

I succumb to the siren song of caffeine and get up to make some instant coffee. I'm tempted to just snort it, hoping for faster relief, but the image of spiky coffee granules going up my nose just grosses me out.

I toss in some ice cubes and the last of the milk, relieved to discover that it hasn't gone bad yet, even though the expiration date was two days ago. Taking a couple of sips, I carry it back into the bedroom, then set it on the bedside table and climb back into bed. I close my eyes and am grateful when sleep pulls me under once more.

~ICL~

It's late afternoon when I open my eyes again. An echo of the earlier headache taps against my forehead in time with my heartbeat. I sit up and drain off the rest of the coffee, noticing as I do that my stomach has settled a little. This is a good thing, just in time to start drinking again.

I'm startled by the buzzing of my phone, set on vibrate these past few weeks, the better to ignore all the pity-texts and calls. Sighing, I pick it up to delete the latest batch.

RILEY: Why aren't you here?

Here? That would be Monica's place, I guess. I forgot all about the practice he scheduled. Again. We haven't had a gig in weeks. It all seems kind of pointless now.

Erase? Yes.

MOM: When are you going to pick up your mail?

I have never understood why my mother feels compelled to keep every piece of junk mail that arrives in her mailbox with my name on it, but she does. She's been kind enough to let me use her address since I was an undergrad, when I moved around a lot, but it means that I have to sort through all the ads and alumni crap that she refuses to throw away until I've had a look at it.

Erase? Yes.

LAURENT: Put on your dancing shoes and meet me at Spin tonight.

I feel a faint prickle of interest, but the time stamp shows 10 pm last night. Too late.

Erase? Yes.

There's another message from Laurent, sent just after midnight.

LAURENT: Come on, man. It happened. Come out with me and I'll help you forget about it.

Help me forget? As much as I like Laurent, I think he may be promising the impossible. The phone buzzes again as I delete the second message.

PETER: Get your head out of your fine ass, Whitlock, and get over here. Dinner at 7, then Pride Fest, remember?

I sigh. I can't believe I agreed to this in a weaker moment several weeks ago, back when I hadn't dug myself quite so deeply into the pit of despair. Since the tour ended, I've managed to avoid the happy little trio at Chateau Three-Way, as Peter so cheerfully refers to the apartment he now shares with Alec and Charlotte. The last thing I need is to see people madly in love with each other. I'm about to decline when another message comes in.

PETER: No, I won't take no for an answer. Get dressed. See you in an hour.

He knows me too well. I huff out something that sounds more like a bark than a laugh, then look around the bedroom, wondering if I have any clean clothes. The last time I did laundry was...

I can't remember, but I think it might have been when we were in Myrtle Beach, right before we left for...

I don't want to think about Charleston again. I pick up the remote and turn on the TV to catch the weather report, but not even the cute weather guy can bring me out of my funk as he tells Greater Chicagoland that it's still in the low 90s, with thunderstorms predicted for later tonight. Maybe that would help with the drought that's been baking the Midwest – and get me out of going to Pride Fest at the same time – but I doubt it. After all, getting wet has never been much of an issue for gay men.

I keep thinking that I'll snap out of this. But every time I start to get my shit together – like when I make it to practice for once, or manage to send out another job application – I start questioning why I'm even bothering, and quickly find myself circling the drain, feeling like fate already has it in for me.

It's a feeling I haven't been able to shake since I returned to Chicago. I felt so great when I left the stage that night after our last set in Charleston. The tour had ended well, and it was obvious that our fan base was growing. We had an amazing week in Nashville too. It was the first time any of us had ever been in a recording studio, and there we were, in the Quonset Hut, where Patsy Cline recorded "Crazy," and Brenda Lee did "I'm Sorry." We got to record the song I wrote, and Riley's colonoscopy song, doing it old-school style with all of us performing at the same time instead of laying down each track separately. The engineers rolled their eyes a few times at our naïveté, but they were really patient with us, and their suggestions made our music soar.

It was the best week of my life... until the texts started coming.

~ICL~

Thunderclouds are visible over the lake as I make my way to a classic apartment building in the heart of Boystown. I hold a bottle of wine in one hand as I press the bell at the entrance, then try to smooth down the front of my shirt. It's a "Chicago Pride" T-shirt from a year or two ago, still in pretty good shape except for all the wrinkles from being balled up at the bottom of a drawer since last year's Pride Fest. At least my jeans don't look like I slept in them, even though I probably have on more than one occasion recently.

"Get your ass up here, Whitlock." Peter sounds tinny through the speaker. We haven't talked much since I got back from the tour, but it's still the friendly voice I remember.

He's standing in the hallway when I reach his floor, wearing board shorts low on his hips and a Hawaiian-print shirt that's completely unbuttoned. I nearly gasp. He always was gorgeous, what with those muscular arms, washboard abs, slim hips, and that tantalizing pale-blond happy trail. If anything, he's in better shape than ever. He grins as he catches me staring. "It's about time you showed up here again."

"You're looking good, Peter," I manage to say. "Great, I mean. You always looked good."

"Thanks," he says, and he wraps his arms around me as soon as I'm within hugging range. I close my eyes and sigh, resting my head on his shoulder, basking in the strength and warmth of his body against mine as the scent of his skin – and whatever spices he's been cooking with – invades my senses. "I feel great," he adds. "I've been having some spectacular workouts lately."

I'm pretty sure he isn't talking about gym time. "I'll bet," I say ruefully, not for the first time missing our casual, exuberant sex, and wondering if there might be something wrong with me that I was never the one who left him glowing like this.

After a moment he gently kisses my cheek. "You, on the other hand, look like shit."

I can't disagree with him. Despite all the sleeping I've been doing, there are still dark circles under my eyes, and I've lost some weight. Add to that my shaggy hair – long overdue for a haircut – and scruff that's not at all attractive, and I know Peter is absolutely right. I'm definitely not the man I was the first time I came for dinner back in March, just before the tour began.

"I'm glad you're here, bro," he murmurs, just as another pair of arms wrap around me.

"Jasper," Alec says in his low, sexy voice, and I feel tingles on my neck where he kisses me, and goosebumps on my skin at the way he says my name. It's the same reaction I had when I was here before, listening to his advice about how to live in close quarters with a bunch of straight guys, like he did when he had a dorm room at Northwestern. Turns out his suggestions weren't all that different from Collin's road rules, but it was the deep, warm rumble of his voice that I paid more attention to. At the time, it made me think of liquid caramel, and I remember wondering if he tasted warm and sweet too...

I try to remember the last time anybody besides my mom hugged me, and I decide that I could happily stand in the hall indefinitely in the warm, welcoming embrace of these two beautiful boys. My stomach disagrees however. When it starts growling, they both laugh, and Alec takes my hand to lead me into the apartment.

Peter veers off into the kitchen, and Alec continues into the living room, then turns and hugs me again. "We've missed you," he says softly. He gives me a long, lingering kiss that simultaneously makes me hard and confuses the hell out of me.

"How's Charlotte?" I ask, still bewildered when the kiss ends. Peter comes in with a pitcher of homemade sangria and takes three glasses from a beautiful wooden Arts and Crafts cabinet near the sofa. I'm surprised when both of them laugh.

"Oh, she's all right, I guess," Peter says nonchalantly, shrugging with mock indifference. Alec laughs again, and I look at him questioningly.

"She's in Seattle," he finally explains. "She'll be back on Monday, if all goes well."

"That's nice," I say, a little distracted as it suddenly dawns on me that it's just the three of us here tonight.

"Very nice." Alec pulls me down on the sofa next to him. Like Peter, he's casually dressed, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts. "Very, very nice."

He doesn't let go of my hand. His thumb draws lazy circles in my palm, and it's as if there's an electric current running directly to my groin. I watch him, mesmerized, as I begin to relax a little, relieved to get out of my head for a while. I start to smile, thinking that maybe there's something to be said for socializing after all, when I hear the splash of ice and sangria as Peter fills our glasses, sets the pitcher on the coffee table, and sits down next to me.

"You know, Jasper, we've been worried about you," Peter says as he passes a glass to me. We haven't talked much since I came back to Chicago, communicating mostly through text messages regarding our Pride Fest plans. "Ever since Riley texted me – "

"He did?" My stomach churns at the memory of Riley's text.

"Yeah. He told me something happened in Charleston at the end of the tour, and ever since then you've been really out of it."

"He did?" I repeat, looking away as I struggle to push aside thoughts of that terrible day. I take another swig of the sangria. It's ice cold and it tastes wonderful, but the joint that Alec lights up and offers to me is even better. It's good stuff, and we pass it around in silence for a few minutes. I lean back against the sofa and close my eyes.

"Jasper, what happened?" Peter asks softly.

I feel a single tear escape and roll down my cheek. A finger – I don't know if it's Peter's or Alec's – brushes it away and tenderly strokes my face. I take a deep, shuddery breath as I try to find a way to describe what happened without bawling like a baby.

"Um..." Another breath, released as a long sigh. Peter starts rubbing a spot at the base of my neck as Alec squeezes my hand. "Well," I finally begin, "you know how I planned that big surprise party for my mom? Her birthday was on Mother's Day this year, the day after the tour ended." I open my eyes for a moment and they both nod.

"After we finished our set, I took the last flight out of Charleston, and I got to my mom's apartment just as all of her friends were gathering in the lobby of her building. Her neighbor had pretended to invite her to go out for brunch, so she was all dressed up when we arrived. It was wonderful."

Another tear escapes and I struggle for control before continuing.

"Of course, I was disappointed that I had to miss the ride back to Chicago with the guys, but seeing my mom's face when I walked into her apartment made it totally worth it. Everyone enjoyed hearing stories about the road trip – the PG version, of course – and I loved how my mom's eyes lit up when I talked about our recording session in Nashville, and what it was like to meet new fans in each city."

I stop again, then take a big swallow of sangria. It suddenly tastes off, not nearly as sweet. "It was a really great day. Until I got those texts, that is."

Laurent's was first. I was never more shocked in my life as when I opened his message and found a photo of Edward, looking up toward the camera in frustration, a tall, handsome man right behind him with a confused look on his face. A second photo caught Edward looking downcast as he turned away.

Where were they taken? I'd done enough stalking of Edward on line to know that I didn't recognize the photos. At first I couldn't understand why Laurent was sending me pictures of Edward. But then Riley's text arrived.

RILEY: Call me ASAP.

I was laughing at something my mother had said as I made the call, wondering what was so urgent. It didn't take long for the laughter to stop.

"Jasper? Um... I'm glad you called."

"Hey Riley, what's going on? Everything okay on the bus?"

I could hear a guitar and voices in the background, and the steady hum of tires on blacktop that had lulled me to sleep many a night.

"Jasper, something happened after you left yesterday."

"Did you finally get laid?" I asked jokingly.

Riley's resolve to not sleep around on the road wavered a lot during the last two weeks of the tour. Monica had predicted that something would happen; it was inevitable, she said, and she was pretty cool about it. But Riley had been determined to prove her wrong.

"No such luck, Jasper. Nothing like that night in Nashville." We both chuckled at the recollection of the raucous party after our performance when he almost caved. Then he cleared his throat. "It's... You're gonna..." He sounded like he was trying to cough up a hairball or something.

"C'mon, Ri, quit beating around the bush. Spit it out."

"EdwardCullenwasinCharlestonandhecamelookingforyou. " He spit it out, all right. All I understood was "Edward Cullen" and I was on full alert.

"Say it again, Riley. Slowly."

"Edward Cullen was in the audience in Charleston, and he came down to the stage after the concert, asking for you."

"What?" I must have shouted, because my mom stuck her head into her bedroom, where I'd gone to make the call, thinking it would be quieter away from the party. I shook my head and waved her away, trying not to show how devastated I was, now that I understood where Laurent's photos came from.

Riley started to repeat himself, but I interrupted him. "No, I heard you. I just can't believe it."

"I'm sorry, but it's true. He was with a really hot guy, but he was asking for you. Alistair kind of fell all over himself, explaining where you were."

I just stood there, looking out through the bedroom door at all the happy people surrounding my mother, while I tried to make sense of what I was hearing.

"Jasper? Are you still there?"Riley asked.

"Yeah... So what happened after that?"

"Well, Edward got this real disappointed look on his face, and he just thanked us and turned away. And then... um... the guy with him took his hand and led him out of the theater."

"Took his hand?" I had to swallow past the lump in my throat. "That's it? He didn't say anything else?"

"Nope. Sorry."

"Why didn't you call me while he was there?"

"We were all kind of in a state of shock, Jasper. Edward Cullen was the last person on earth we expected to see in Charleston. And he just came and went so fast that nobody had time to even think of calling you. I'm so sorry."

"No, it's okay. I'm the one in shock now; I would have been then too. But... but what took you so long to tell me about this?"

"I just didn't want to spoil your surprise for your mom." He paused. "Plus we all got blitzed after the show and I just woke up a little while ago," he admitted.

Edward Cullen. In the audience, and then looking for me. For me.

I hadn't shed a tear since my father left when I was five years old, but on that day, I locked myself in my mother's bathroom and cried. Now, more tears fall, and I brush them away roughly as I tell Peter and Alec about Riley's call.

"Oh, man," Peter groans. "He was right there? In the same building? That really sucks."

"Yeah, but I just don't get it," I continue. "I don't know why he came looking for me when he was with another man. And what really pisses me off is what's happened since then."

"Anger is good," Peter observes wryly as he puts an arm around my shoulders.

Alec rolls his eyes at Peter's psychobabble. "What happened next?" he asks.

"Absolutely nothing," I grumble. "I mean, to show up out of the blue like that after months of silence? Not to mention with another guy. And then nothing? He must have heard about the web site. Riley always mentions it at the end of every set. Would it have killed him to send a message or... something?"

I pause as my cheeks redden with anger and embarrassment. It's been six weeks already, and I haven't handled it very well.

I should have known better than to hope, but after Edward's surprise appearance, I was so sure that he would do something else. At first I texted Alice every day, asking if there had been any messages for me through the web site. After a few days of this, she threatened to change her phone number. She was hurt that I thought she was holding out on me, and reminded me firmly that any activity on the web site would be just as visible to me as it was to her.

I suppose I should be encouraged by what is happening on the blog, instead of moping about what isn't. Our music is still selling, modestly to be sure, but it has been well received by our small yet loyal audience. It was mostly local at first, but it has expanded beyond Chicago since the tour.

Hell, for all I know, it consists entirely of the girls James slept with.

We've played a few gigs since returning to Chicago, but new bookings are few and far between. Now I tend to cancel practice rather than make an effort to be there. I know this can't go on much longer. At first everyone was full of sympathy, but after six weeks, their sentiments have begun to shift from "aw, poor baby" to "get over it already." I've never been so depressed in my entire life, and I don't know if I'll ever get over it. I just keep thinking that after enough time passes, I'll wake up and feel better. But then another day goes by and I end up feeling worse.

Peter had caught me off guard with his invitation, reminding me that it's been a tradition of ours to go out together for at least one night of Pride Fest every year. It would have been rude to refuse – not ditching-practice rude, but a worse kind of low – and at the time I just said yes, thinking that I could get out of it later. Now I'm feeling a little better, having told my pathetic story to sympathetic listeners, but there's still a hollow feeling in my heart that just won't quit...

I'm pulled out of my ruminations by the sound of a match as Peter lights another joint and passes it to me. "Well, he says, "regardless of what Edward Cullen does or doesn't do, you need to rejoin the land of the living."

"So we decided to stage an intervention," Alec murmurs in a low voice close to my ear. "I hope you're not too hungry yet, Jasper." I shiver as he takes the lobe into his mouth and sucks on it gently. "You remember last time, when we said we wanted to have you back for dinner? Well, bon appétit, baby, 'cause I'm starving."

With that, he begins nibbling on my neck, then sucking the skin until I'm sure I must be marked with a trail of tiny bruises as he pushes up my T-shirt and continues down my chest. I sit awkwardly, looking at Peter out of the corner of my eye, my body clearly ready for more, while my brain tries to make sense of what's happening here. He watches us carefully, and it's obvious that he's turned on, but there is something else in Peter's expression – concern. That in itself – knowing that I'm with someone who cares about me on some level – makes it all right.

What's left of the joint is still clenched in my fingers, forgotten in this unexpected turn of events. Peter takes it and puts it out in an ashtray. Then he leans in and whispers into my ear. "Is this okay with you?" His lips brush against my earlobe, and it's both comforting and incredibly hot.

I swallow, then nod. "What about Charlotte?" I manage to blurt out before my head falls back onto the sofa.

"Charlotte's cool," Peter says as he gestures for me to take off my shirt. I'm not sure I want Alec to stop what he's doing but I obey. "In fact, she's the one who suggested it. She thought you might be more comfortable with just the two of us. If she were here, she'd probably be filming this."

"And getting herself off on it too," Alec says drily, before taking my shirt from my hand, tossing it on the floor, and turning his attention back to my body.

"That's for sure." Peter laughs. "Well, it wouldn't be the first time."

This revelation startles me. "You mean you've shared other guys before?" I'm surprised to feel a twinge of jealousy.

"Oh no," Peter reassures me with a wicked grin. "It was just Alec and me, fucking each other while she filmed us." He pauses for a moment, his eyes darting quickly to the flat-screen TV across from the sofa. "We could watch it if you need a little inspiration." His hand slides into my jeans, and he laughs smugly as he feels my erection straining against my boxers. "In any case," he says as he bends closer, his hot breath in my ear, "you are the first, Jasper."

Alec picks up the remote control, then hesitates before tossing it aside as he watches Peter's hand in my jeans. "We can watch videos some other time," he says in that caramel-coated voice of his. "Let's just keep it real."

He gestures toward the mirror that hangs above the TV, angled perfectly for me to watch and feel Peter as he continues to stroke me. Alec joins in as I sit there, stunned, just feeling their hands on me, warm and firm. After a few moments, they reach across me to caress each other, then kiss deeply. I watch their lips, their tongues, thinking that I've never seen anything so fucking sexy in my entire life.

I can't take it any more. My cock is already so hard I think it might burst through my clothes all on its own. I grope for the button and zipper on my jeans, not wanting to waste any more time, lifting my ass off the sofa and grinning for the first time in weeks as I feel their hands pulling down my jeans and boxers. I can't help laughing as they struggle to untie my sneakers, both ending up with the laces in knots, until they finally free my lower body from clothing, shoes, and, thanks to those joints, all inhibitions. Peter and Alec quickly cast off their shirts and shorts, not having bothered with underwear this evening.

My behavior has never been all that angelic, but a threesome is something new for me, so I'm a little dumbfounded at the sight of the trio of hard cocks pointed skyward, clear liquid shining at the slits of all three. Alec and I take a moment to explore. His cock is shorter than mine, but much thicker.

"Oh Jasper," Alec says as he reaches out to touch the pre-cum at the tip of my cock, "it's just as gorgeous as Peter said it would be."

"You guys talk about me?" I ask in confusion.

"Oh yeah," Alec responds. "It turns me on when Peter talks about naughty things you could do to me, and a few things you might be willing to let me do to you." He gives me a sidelong look, and his grin is irresistible.

Peter's hot hand is wrapped around my cock as Alec slides a finger inside my foreskin, then tastes my pre-cum. I just keep getting harder and harder.

I groan as the foreskin slides back and the purplish head emerges. I lift my hips, seeking more stimulation. Alec bends toward my lap and I gasp as he takes me into his mouth. I run my fingers through his hair while his tongue slowly drives me crazy.

Peter laughs as he rubs my neck with one hand while stroking himself with the other. He leans toward me and gives me a deep kiss that makes me realize how much I've missed him and how grateful I am to be included in this scene, however briefly. I reach out with my other hand and wrap it around his.

"Mmm, that feels so good," he says, then lifts his hand away from his cock and leaves me in full contact with his hot, smooth skin, which I stroke in time with Alex's movements. It doesn't take long before I'm moaning with pleasure.

Peter has a huge grin on his face as he watches Alec. "Oh yeah," he says in a low, sexy voice. "I know how good that feels. Come for us, Jasper." He sounds so cheesy that we all start laughing, and the vibrations of Alec's laughter around my cock puts me over the edge.

Afterward, as I begin to catch my breath, Peter pulls Alec toward him and kisses him hard. I think there's probably a little snowballing going on too. I stay where I am, just watching as the two men get lost in each other. My face must show something of the longing I'm feeling, because soon Peter's right hand extends toward me and he squeezes my shoulder, pulling me into their embrace. After a few more moments, he stands up and puts on his shorts.

"But... but...," I splutter. "What about you guys? I got off, but you didn't."

"'Butt' is a very good word," Peter says with a laugh.

"The night is young, sweetheart, and that was just the appetizer," Alec adds. "I hope you'll stick around for dessert later." He waggles his eyebrows comically as his tongue wets his lips, and I lean in to give him a kiss.

"Sounds good to me," I respond, getting to my feet. "I'd like to clean up a little first."

"What?" Alex exclaims, his face a pretty pout. "I didn't do a good enough job on you?" Then he grins and points toward the hallway. "You remember where the bathroom is, don't you? Peter and I will have everything ready by the time you're finished in there.

I borrow Peter's favorite soap-on-a-rope from the shower, noticing that it's right next to some girly brand of shampoo that must be Charlotte's. A small basket on the counter by the sink is filled with scrunchies and cufflinks. A magazine rack on the floor near the toilet contains back issues of Vanity Fair and Elle, as well as Men's Health and GQ. I've never wanted to live with anyone before, so my wistful reaction to all this cozy domesticity takes me by surprise.

I pull on my boxers and rejoin Peter and Alec, who is now wearing his shorts again too. In the dining room Peter refills our glasses before going outside to get the steaks from the grill on the apartment's balcony.

Alec is busy in the kitchen, making a garlicky aioli sauce while nuking several potatoes. Peter gives him a gentle hip bump as he puts a steak on each plate, then adds a kiss to his shoulder when he turns to pull a salad out of the fridge.

He pours a freshly made salad dressing into the bowl and hands it to me. "Toss it, will you? The salad tongs are in there." He points to a drawer next to the fridge as Alec starts slicing up a baguette.

A few minutes later, silence descends as we begin devouring the food. The steaks are cooked to perfection and everything else is delicious. It's the first home-cooked meal I've had in weeks.

After we finish eating, Peter gets up and starts clearing the table. Alec turns on some music, then pulls me up out of my seat to dance with him until Peter comes into the living room, puts his hands on his hips and starts tapping his right foot. He has a mock-serious expression on his face as he says, "If you don't help clean up, there won't be any dessert for either one of you."

After that it's only a matter of minutes before the leftovers are put away and the dishes are done. We continue dancing around the kitchen as we work, bumping hips and stealing kisses. Looking around to see what else needs to be done, I open the door leading out to the balcony, intending to grab the grill so that I can wash it, when Alec grabs me instead.

"That can wait," he says, then he pushes me up against the refrigerator and starts grinding against me as he kisses me.

Peter joins us in a moment, standing behind Alec and kissing his bare shoulders. "C'mon, you two," he says, then leads the way into their bedroom.

"What about Pride Fest?" I feel obliged to ask, although the last thing I want to do right now is leave Chateau Three-Way.

"I'm out," Alec proclaims with a laugh. "I'm out and I'm proud. What about you, Peter?"

"Yeah. I think we're doing just fine with our own little Pride Fest right here. Wouldn't you agree, Jasper?"

"Hell, yes. I just didn't want anyone to think I'd forgotten about it."

Their king-size bed has plenty of room for all of us. Alec and Peter drop their shorts on the floor, and Alec gestures to me to lose the boxers. They pull me onto the bed and I fall into the tangle of pillows and covers, sandwiched between them.

They proceed to kiss and rub and stroke my body, grinding against me as I bask in their attention. Soon Peter turns me on my side, facing Alec, and prepares to enter me as Alec and I continue kissing and giving each other handjobs.

"Oh my god, Peter," I groan as his cock slides inside me.

Alec watches us for a moment, his eyes hazy with lust, until he can't stand it any longer. "Me too," he insists in an odd voice that makes all three of us laugh. He reaches for a condom and rapidly rolls it down my cock, then lubes it with an impatient click of his tongue, as if he can't get it ready fast enough.

He slows down momentarily when he rolls on his side, his back to me, and starts applying lube to himself. Now I'm the one who's impatient, and soon I'm pushing aside his fingers as I guide my cock toward his ass. He backs up against me, both of us groaning as I push past the ring of muscle and start hitting his prostate. When I pull back, Peter pushes deeper inside me. The room is filled with the sounds of skin slapping against skin as we coordinate our movements, starting slowly at first and then picking up speed, our grunts and moans signaling when it's too much – or not enough.

I love the feel of Peter's sweaty chest behind me, and Alec's glistening back in front of me. I reach around Alec to stroke his cock until he comes, and then I'm overwhelmed by all the sensations as Peter throbs deep inside me, triggering my own powerful orgasm.

I close my eyes and wonder what this – this sea of bliss – could possibly be called. Fucking? Making love? It's not quite either one. There's no word to describe it, and that's okay. Whatever it is, it's exactly what I need.

We hold on tight to each other afterward, continuing to thrust slowly for several minutes, reluctant to pull out and end this incredible connection. Finally, though, we have to.

I suspect that I could have stayed all night with Peter and Alec, but by the time we finish cleaning up, I am drained, and my stomach hurts. Is it from too much food and sangria? Or is it just that the unexpected – but not unwelcome – sex is also a painful reminder of everything in my life that remains so elusive, so out of reach? I just want to go home and go back to sleep, to escape for a while from this weird existence on the edges of other people's lives.

I take a quick shower and come back into the bedroom to get dressed. Peter and Alec are still on the bed, wrapped up in each other's arms and kissing passionately as they begin grinding against each other again.

"I'm gonna head out," I say with a sigh.

They break apart and look at me questioningly as Peter starts to untangle himself from Alec's embrace.

"No, don't get up, Pete. I like this image of the two of you. I'm gonna be thinking about how it's your turn to be fucked now, and probably wishing I was still here to do it, but I need to go."

"Thanks for... uh... coming, Jasper," Peter says, then blows me a kiss.

"Thanks for the intervention," I reply, even though I feel like shit. "I hope we can get together again sometime."

"Mmm, that sounds delicious," Alec murmurs, and I head out into the steamy night.

~ICL~

I wander through Pride Fest for a while before catching a bus back to my neighborhood, thinking of Peter and Alec in their big, comfy bed, and wishing I was still there, or they were with me. I thought I wanted to be alone, but now I can't stand the idea of going back to my empty apartment.

A couple of cute twinks try to hit on me, but I hardly notice them. It's just me, with my head up my ass, as Peter would say, wondering if this is as good as it gets, with a boys' night out – or in – every once in a while. Oh, and Edward comes to Chicago once a year – don't forget about that.

Is that all there is? What the fuck do I want anyway?

I still haven't come up with a satisfactory answer to that question when I stumble into my apartment thirty minutes later, just as my phone starts ringing. It's after midnight and it's my mom.

"Jasper Lee Whitlock," she begins. Uh-oh. When I get the three-name greeting, I know I'm in trouble. Especially after midnight. She's usually asleep by ten.

"Hi, Mom. How are ya?" I'm stalling, even though I know it's futile. I'm cringing already and she hasn't even told me why she has escalated from repetitive texts about my mail to an actual phone call. "What are you doing up so late?"

"How am I? I'm up so late because I've been worried about you and I haven't been sleeping well." Her frown is clearly audible. "What on earth is going on with you?"

"What do you mean?" It's a delaying tactic, not that playing the innocent has ever worked with her before.

"You might as well still be on tour, for as much as I've seen of you in the past six weeks." Guilty as charged: I haven't been to her place since her birthday party. "And you haven't even had the courtesy to answer my texts..."

"Sorry, Mom. I – "

"'Sorry' doesn't cut it with me," she snaps, interrupting me before I can even come up with a decent excuse. "You know that, Jasper. For me, actions always speak louder than words, and your lack of action tells me that something isn't right. The last time you went this quiet on me was right before you told me you were gay. So what aren't you telling me this time?"

"Listen, Mom, it's late. I've been drinking and my head is a mess. Couldn't I just come by tomorrow afternoon so you can finish yelling at me then?"

"You promise?"

"Promise."

"You're not going to pass out and then forget all about me while you deal with your hangover all day, are you?"

"Probably not."

"Jasper?"

"Okay! I'll be there." It's a good idea, actually. She's always been a good listener, even if it takes me a while to figure out what to say.

"Your mail is piling up here too, you know." Now there's a surprising note of excitement in her voice. "There's one envelope that came a couple weeks ago. It looks really important. I sent you a text when it got here."

"Oh yeah, I remember that one. It was something along the lines of 'you've got mail,' right?"

"Well, yes." She sounds exasperated now, and I can't help laughing a little because all her texts are pretty much the same.

"So what's in the envelope?"

"How would I know? I don't open your mail."

I sigh. "Who's it from?"

"It doesn't have a return address."

"Mom, it has to be advertising or something. Why do you think it's so important?"

"Because, Jasper" she begins patiently, "your name is hand-written in the most beautiful calligraphy I've ever seen, and the postmark is from London..."


A/N: Thanks also are due to Bless the Rains for including ICL in her story recs at the end of Chapter 41 of It's Waiting There for You. Hello, and thank you to everyone who took a chance on ICL as a result of that recommendation.

Finally, Jasper's thoughts about snorting instant coffee granules are an homage to a scene in one of my favorite indie films. Can you name it?